Was it a "Rosa Parkinson's" Moment?
The guy with Parkinson’s disease who got taunted and mocked and had money thrown at him during a teabagger rally in Ohio has been identified.
The man with Parkinson’s who sat down in front of a group of anti-health reform rally in Ohio this week, only to have dollar bills thrown at him by an angry protester screaming about “handouts,” tells TPM in a phone interview that he was aiming to present his own body as a powerful symbol of the debate.
“I feel I embody the controversy that was being fought out,” Bob Letcher, 60, tells us. “No one was engaging, everyone was screaming. I thought, I don’t have to scream, I just have to be there. I walked over and sat down … I sort of presented myself as an argument by myself.”
Now this is very, very brave. To have such a debilitating infirmity, to sit silently in the face of such hatred not knowing if one of these idiots is gonna throw a brick at you or hit you with a sign… I think of it as kind of a “Rosa Parkinson’s” kind of moment.
Letcher says he has been on disability since 2005. His last job was teaching science and technology policy at Ohio State. He had brain surgery in 2006, paid for by Medicare and by a charitable contribution from the Cleveland Clinic, he says.
“I feel really responsible — the most important thing to me is thanking everyone who made that surgery possible.”
How he maintained such dignity is beyond me. When I faced down a protester a year ago in February for carrying a sign saying that taxpayers were “niggars”, I almost lost my temper with him. Thank God I had Gail with me to drag me away.
In a scene captured by the Columbus Dispatch that went viral online, a second protester then came up to Letcher. “No, no, I’ll pay for this guy. Here you go, start a pot. I’ll pay for you,” he says, as he places a dollar bill in Letcher’s lap.
“I’ll decide when to give you money,” the man screams, throwing another bill at Letcher.
Letcher said the dude looked like he had a lot of practice at being “cold.”
But it wasn’t all bad.
A “teabag kind of guy” holding a “don’t tread on me” flag at one point came over to Letcher in the street and whispered “hey buddy, you better move, that car almost hit you.”
“That was the only hopeful thing that came out of that day. Otherwise it was terribly discouraging,” says Letcher.
Still, Bob Letcher is my hero! Bravery and dignity in the face of such blind, disgusting ignorance and hatred is to be admired.
And he makes me realize — I’ve been missing the boat. I’ve been diagnosed as long as Letcher has, and I’m probably just as impaired. So later today I’m gonna make ME a sign and carry it down to a busy street corner, plunk my ass down on a curb and hope teabaggers will throw money at ME!